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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So last night I was chopping shallots for the first time. I'm familiar with onions, being an amateur home cook, and I know all about the burning eyes, and some of the tips to avoid it like not cutting the root.

However when it was mincing shallots it was like somebody set of a chemical weapon in my kitchen! My eyes were watering and burning so badly that I couldn't see, and what's worse, I could feel it burning in my throat and it nearly made me gag.

My question is, are Shallots ALWAYS this bad or did I end up with a bad one or what? There's a lot of recipes that require shallots and I don't know if I'll ever be able to use them again after that experience.
 
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Shallots tend to release more concentrated fumes that cause the tearing. In addition to cutting from the stem end, there are some other basic steps you can use to cut down on the fumes:

1) Use a very sharp knife. The fumes that make you tear up are released when onion/shallot cells are ruptured. The sharper the knife, the less rupturing.

2) Cut near an open flame. The flame burns off some of the chemicals that cause tearing.

3) Chill your onion/shallot before preparing it.

4) Spritz your cutting board with a little vinegar. This helps neutralize some of the chemicals that create the sulfuric acid that causes the tears.

5) Work quickly.

Here is a fairly informative site: http://pinchmysalt.com/2007/10/24/how-to-cut-an-onion-with-fewer-tears-a-photo-tutorial/
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I was using my brand new chef's knives and cutting as fast as I could without injuring myself. I suppose I'll freeze them first or something. :(
 
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Mikuto said:
I was using my brand new chef's knives and cutting as fast as I could without injuring myself. I suppose I'll freeze them first or something. :(
DON'T freeze them! It ruins the texture. But chilling them in the fridge or ice water for 30 minutes or so will reduce the tears. And don't forget the "open flame" tip if you have a gas stove.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I'm in an apartment building, I'm lucky I have a stove at all! It's just electric. I'll try chilling them in the fridge next time. I'm considering a pair of safety goggles!
 
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Mikuto said:
I'm in an apartment building, I'm lucky I have a stove at all! It's just electric. I'll try chilling them in the fridge next time. I'm considering a pair of safety goggles!
I've never used the vinegar tip myself, but I've heard about it for years. It's probably worth a try.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
It sounds like it's worth trying. I only have balsamic, but it wouldn't be hard to pick up some regular old white vinegar and spray my cutting board before chopping.

Should I use a plain old chef's knife instead of my Santoku? They're sharp as could be, but serrated, so that could make a difference.
 

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Use the chef's knife. You shouldn't try to chop vegetables with a serrated knife.

L
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I wouldn't normally, but the Santoku is brand new and super sharp. Very fine serrations too, not like a bread knife. It's a general purpose knife, but I've found it really good for vegetables. I don't so much chop though, I slice cause I'm afraid I'm going to get stuff everyone if I chop...
 

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Onions and shallots never bother me, that is one advantage to wearing glasses.  Also I chop fast, breath through my mouth, and have them cold then I chop them.  I'm not really sure why the mouth breathing helps but it does, I learned that from my grandmother. :)

A Santoku isn't really serrated, it just has in indentations so things don't stick, I use it for onions and shallots.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I use my santoku for onions too, and I notice a lot less tearing, mostly because it's so much . I wear glasses too but it doesn't seem to help with the shallots!

I have a lower end Santoku knife, with "micro-serrations". I probably need to invest in one that's not serrated.
 

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Mikuto said:
I use my santoku for onions too, and I notice a lot less tearing, mostly because it's so much . I wear glasses too but it doesn't seem to help with the shallots!

I have a lower end Santoku knife, with "micro-serrations". I probably need to invest in one that's not serrated.
You may have had a bad shallot. I have a Wusthof.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
It's possible, my roomie says that onions and shallots get stronger the longer they're stored, it might have just been old. However I'm planning on investing in a non-serrated santoku for the delicate stuff like onions, so we'll have to see if that helps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I got them from Trader Joe's, in a little package that said "shallots". They were much smaller than your average onion, one of them was sort of segmented like a clove of garlic, and they were purplish in color after I removed the peach skin.
 

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Mikuto said:
I got them from Trader Joe's, in a little package that said "shallots". They were much smaller than your average onion, one of them was sort of segmented like a clove of garlic, and they were purplish in color after I removed the peach skin.
Sounds like a shallot. I've never had the problem you described. Maybe as someone else said, they were old. And seeing the picture of your knife...that should be okay. I thought you meant really serrated, like a bread knife.

L
 

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discovery channel trivia - onions make your eyes water because they emit sulfer, which mixes with the water in your eyes to make sulfuric acid. :'(

yum!

 

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My favorite knives are ceramic.  I have a chef's knife style and a paring knife.  They are wicked sharp. . . work great on all vegies, especially tomatoes which you need a really sharp knife to slice or dice without squishing.  Also good on meat but you need to be careful around bones so you don't nick the blade.  They also worked well on the shallots we had in something last month.  Don't recall any particular tearing issues. . .but I agree with those who suggest the faster they are cut the less problem you should have.

Ann
 

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Ann Von Hagel said:
My favorite knives are ceramic.
Mine too! I almost cut off a finger with the chef's knife.... Mine is made by Kyocera.

I've noticed that the onions have gotten much sharper over the past few years.... They all burn my eyes, even though I keep them in the fridge.
 

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pidgeon92 said:
Mine too! I almost cut off a finger with the chef's knife.... Mine is made by Kyocera.
I think that's what mine are too. I got 'em at the Smokey Mountain Knife Works. Got the paring knife about 3 years ago when we were in Gatlinburg for a family reunion. . .one of DH's brothers had gotten one and I liked how it worked. Liked the paring knife so well that when we were back last summer I got the chef's knife. They're no more expensive than good quality steel knives and I really like how they work.

Ann
 
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